Love Site

(also known as LOVE BONE BED)

University of Florida Vertebrate Fossil Locality AL001


About 1 mile north of Archer, Alachua County, Florida, just off Route 241; 29.55° N, 82.52° W.


Basis of Age

Vertebrate biochronology. The presence of the immigrant taxon Hoplictis (formerly Beckia) and the absence of Hemphillian immigrant taxa, including megalonychid and mylodontid ground sloths and Eurasian carnivores such as bears and machairodonts, indicate the late Clarendonian NALMA (North American Land Mammal Age). Supporting this, the stage of evolution of several mammalian taxa, including species within Barbourofelidae, Canidae, Mustelidae, Gomphotheriidae, Equidae, and Tayassuidae, matches that of other late Clarendonian sites in North America (Webb et al., 1981; Hulbert, 2005).


A graded fluvial channel deposit consisting of coarse, cross-bedded phosphatic sands and gravel that fine upwards to orange clays and clayey sands. These fluvial sediments were deposited into a paleostream channel cut into the Late Eocene Crystal River Formation, a bioclastic limestone unit (Webb et al., 1981).

Depositional Environment

The Love Bone Bed likely represents a single depositional cycle of an ancient stream or small river that ran from north to south. Several different habitats are represented, including estuarine (sharks, fish, marine mammals), swamp and wetland (alligator, some turtles, gar, waterbirds), and terrestrial (horses, gomphothere, camels, rodents). The latter includes both relatively closed, heavily wooded habitats as well as open prairie or savanna. This suggests that at the time of deposition the Love Site was near sea level in elevation and likely nearshore, receiving fluvial transport of bones from terrestrial and freshwater marsh areas (Webb et al., 1981). Many of the bones and teeth show rounding caused by surface abrasion during fluvial transport, and among terrestrial vertebrates there is a strong bias in favor of larger-bodied species and against small-bodied species (those < 1 kg). There were few cases of articulated or even associated skeletal elements; most were isolated finds.


Figure 1. Initial excavations at the Love Site in 1974, in between the okra. Image by David Webb.

Excavation History and Methods

The site was discovered in an okra field on a farm belonging to the Love Family in 1974. Mr. Ron Love brought the fossilized leg bone of a rhinoceros to the Florida Museum, which prompted University of Florida paleontologists to investigate the site near the town of Archer. First, cores were taken of the site to determine the dimensions of the fossiliferous layer and then the bed was cleared off using a backhoe (Webb et al., 1981). The site was worked nearly continuously for nearly seven years by University of Florida crews until 1981, by which time much of the ancient channel had been excavated in a deep trench. The fossils were mainly recovered through quarrying and, by the end, the Love Site had yielded over 20,000 identifiable specimens. A video made in 1981 about the excavation of the Love Site can be found here:

Figure 2. UF graduate students digging at the Love Site in 1975. Heavy machinery has cleared away the soil, exposing the fossil-bearing unit. Image by David Webb.


The Love Bone Bed was an extremely prolific site, yielding thousands of identifiable bones and teeth. In fossil richness, it is exceeded among Florida sites only by Thomas Farm, Montbrook, and Leisey Shell Pit 1A. Many new species were described using Love material, including two turtles (Jackson, 1978; Valdes et al. 2017), birds (Becker, 1985; 1986), rodents (Baskin, 1980a; 1986), a felid (Baskin, 1981), procyonids (Baskin, 1982), a barbourofelid (Baskin, 1981), a mustelid (Baskin, 2005), equids (Hulbert, 1988a), and an artiodactyl (Webb, 1983). In other cases the large samples at the Love Site allowed detailed study and taxonomic revisions of previously poorly known species (Jackson, 1976; Hulbert, 1987; 1988b; 1993). Some taxa from the Love Site remain unstudied, particularly non-mammalian vertebrates and the microfauna. The relatively unique conditions at the site, particularly the large sample sizes of mammalian taxa coupled with rapid deposition over a short time-span, allowed for studies of population dynamics (Hulbert, 1982; Mihlbachler, 2003), social behavior (Mihlbachler, 2005), and community structure (MacFadden and Hulbert, 1990), which are phenomena that can only rarely be studied in the fossil record.

All modern classes of vertebrates can be found at the Love Site, which consist of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals (Webb et al., 1981; MacFadden and Hulbert, 1990). The mammalian fauna consist of at least 45 taxa but are dominated by terrestrial ungulates (proboscideans, artiodactyls, and perissodactyls), of which 21 species have been identified (MacFadden and Hulbert, 1990). Today, a comparably large number of coexistent ungulate species can only found in sub-Saharan Africa. Many of the Love Site ungulates are proposed to have fed mainly on grass and the paleoclimate has been reconstructed as having annual rainy and dry seasons, both of which support a habitat reconstruction similar to a modern African savanna (Hulbert, 1982; MacFadden and Hulbert, 1990). The presence of emydid turtles, alligator, gar, and water birds indicates that the site was near quiet, freshwater habitats, marshes, and estuaries (Webb et al., 1981; MacFadden and Hulbert, 1990).


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number CSBR 1203222, Jonathan Bloch, Principal Investigator. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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